Mets Playing Time Battles: Hitters

We’ve started our annual Depth Chart Discussions, re-branded as Playing Time Battles for 2016. You can catch up on every team we’ve covered in the Playing Time Battles Summary post or following along using the Depth Chart Discussions tag.

For the New York Mets, there are no outright starter roles up for grabs. There are, however, potential platoon roles given the amount of versatility some of their players have. August Fagerstrom looked at the most promising platoons here, and the Mets had two of the top 5 “potential” platoons, meaning if the Mets were to platoon, they have some valuable options at second base and in the outfield. Will there be a straight platoon? We’re not sure just yet, but the Mets have options, which is something the front office wanted to improve upon this off-season.

Second Base

Neil Walker is the starting second baseman for the Mets. From a statistical standpoint, it may make sense for them to platoon with Wilmer Flores since Walker hasn’t hit lefties as well as Flores did last season. Walker has a career .656 OPS against lefties, and his 2014 breakout season was the only full season where he had an OPS over .700 (.727) against lefties. Flores has only 208 plate appearances versus left-handed pitchers, and his OPS for his career against lefties is .692. Those numbers are slightly skewed as Flores struggled in total as a 22 and 23 year old, with brief appearances in the majors. Last season, however, Flores mashed lefties in his 107 plate appearances with a .955 OPS, and a 162 wRC+. The concerning things about Flores as a full-time platoon are his lack of walks, and whether that sample size is a legit enough indicator. However, if he is able to have an isolated power of .290 against lefties like he did last season, this could be an interesting platoon to look at.

Another thing that may get in the way is money. One could argue the Mets are paying Walker too much money (10.6 million) to simply platoon him. Additionally, after this season, the Mets could make a qualifying offer in the hopes he signs elsewhere netting a draft pick. A straight platoon would lessen the probability of that scenario coming to fruition. Not to say the Mets will make this a purely financial situation, but I wouldn’t discount the impact the ole mighty dollar will have on this situation.

The other factor that will impact the possibility of a platoon is David Wright’s health. Even if Wright stays healthy for the whole season, it would’ve been the result of frequent rest and not playing every day. Flores right now is slated to be the guy who gives Wright those necessary days off, and even fills in for him in case of injury. Or it’s possible they move Asdrubal Cabrera to third and Flores to short when Wright needs a rest or if he gets injured, because very doubtful his rest days will come against lefties. Either way, that would impact the Walker/Flores straight platoon.

According to Fagerstrom, the platoon of Walker and Flores would yield a 3.5 WAR. Steamer projects a full season of Walker would yield a 2.3 WAR, with his defense negatively impacting that WAR.

Outfield

The outfield was once a joke amongst Met fans, and is now a strength, particularly after resigning Yoenis Cespedes. The everyday crew is Michael Conforto in left, Cespedes in center, and Curtis Granderson in right. Juan Lagares and Alejandro De Aza would be coming off the bench.

Fagerstrom also mentioned a possibile platoon of Conforto and Lagares, which wouldn’t be a straight platoon since Lagares would move to center and Cespedes to left. This is a more difficult platoon to project because of the increased value of moving Cespedes to left and if Lagares bounces back defensively, his value in center. According to Fagerstrom, the Conforto/Lagares platoon would yield a 2.9 WAR. Steamer projects 125 games of Conforto would yield a 2.2 WAR.

On the surface, this seems like a positive move as the lefty Conforto struggled against lefties in his limited sample size (15 PA), and Lagares for his career has a higher OPS against lefites (.753). Not quite the level Flores reached against lefties, but still above average. The skill Lagares brings that is so essential when he is healthy, is his defense. Last year, even while playing hurt and experiencing an off year, his defensive WAR was over 5 and had a positive UZR in CF. If he bounces back anywhere near the level he played in 2014 (20.2 Def WAR & 18.6 UZR), they are going to have find ways to get him on the field.

One argument against the platoon is the development of Michael Conforto as an everyday player. In order for Conforto to be able to hit lefties, he needs to face them. Are the Mets willing to potentially stunt Conforto’s growth in order to play the percentages as they stand right now? Doubtful, particularly after Mets general manager Sanday Alderson indicated Conforto and De Aza would get some time in right field during spring training.

Granderson had a very nice bounce back season in 2015 and solidified himself at the top of the line-up. The only area Granderson really struggled was against lefties, as he struck out over 33 percent of the time and had an OPS of .558. Looking closely, however, most of this was in the first half of the season as his OPS against lefties was .354, but he bounced back in the second half with a .721 OPS. For his career, he has had more success against righties (not surprising), but has held his own against lefties as well with a .696 OPS (not far off from Lagares), and a .175 ISO.

Cespedes hits righties and lefties fairly even for his career when looking at OPS (.788 vs L, .811 vs. R), so I wouldn’t expect them to platoon a $27.5 million player. The reason I bring him up is where does he fit in with all these potential moves in the outfield. The only player who should displace Cespedes in center is Lagares, and when that happens, Cespedes will move to left. The hope is that with more time focused on center in spring training, Cespedes will become an above average center fielder when Lagares is not in, and keep up his value in left when they move him over. De Aza looks to be the replacement corner outfielder against lefties.

Much like the infield, I doubt you will see straight platoons in the outfield. I think you’ll see some occasional starts from Lagares and De Aza to give guys rest, but I don’t think the defensive alignment will drastically change every time a lefty is on the mound. They will also need to account for Granderson’s age and give him appropriate rest, and the general fatigue that may set in with Conforto playing his first full major league season.



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attgig
Member
attgig

i think complicating the Flores/Walker platoon is that Flores is penciled in to be the backup 1bman too, and Duda could always use a lefty pitching platoon as well.

mr.met89
Member

I suspect kevin plawecki will get time at 1B, especially in the case that flores is forced to play every day if walker goes down. The mets front office has stated that they’re not scared of playing both of their catchers in the same game because an in-game d’arnaud injury isn’t something that they can’t deal with for a few innings.

Gfuzz
Member
Gfuzz

Or TD playing some 1B. But it bears mention again, Duda mashed lefties last year.

Matt
Member
Matt

With Granderson, Walker, and Duda all needing a platoon against lefties, kinda makes you think they wish they had Cuddyer back for one more year, huh?

Brian P. Mangan
Member
Brian P. Mangan

… nah